I frequently work with clients who feel frustrated and sometimes even defeated by their excess weight or declining health. They keep trying the latest fad diets — eating like a caveman, avoiding all gluten, drinking endless juices – gain a little traction and then lose it, sometimes slipping back further than when they started. They ask, “Why can’t I stick to any of these diets? What’s wrong with me?” And those questions are actually the key to the answer.
You see, most diet plans breed an all-or-nothing mentality where if you don’t follow their program perfectly, you’re labeled a failure. Wouldn't you rather determine a set of sustainable eating and physical activity habits that get you the results you want, while allowing you to live your life, too?
A great first step for taking back the steering wheel of your life, health and fitness is the activity below:
Divide a piece of paper into five separate columns. At the tops of the columns, write down the last five diets you were on. For each diet column, write down the following:
- How long you were on the diet (specific dates work best, in chronological order).
- What the diet involved doing/restricting/changing.
- The results of the diet.
- How you felt during the diet and what caused the diet to end?
- What happened to your weight or physique over the six to twelve months following the end of the diet (assuming you didn’t start a new diet)?
- What about the diet worked for you? Think about things you could see yourself doing again for the long-term.
- What did not work for you and potentially led to you ending the diet?
If you don’t have a history of chronic dieting but feel stuck in your current habits, despite wanting to make a change, think about and answer the following questions on a piece of paper:
- Was there a time when you were happy with your health, fitness or weight? Describe that time and the habits you had then.
- How did you get into your current situation?
- What has changed between then and now? How did those changes create your current habits?
- Is there anything you used to do that you can start doing again?
- If you’ve never been happy with your health, weight or fitness, consider what you think you may need to feel or experience to know that you are breaking out of your current habits and making positive changes.
Using this information, you can likely get a sneak peek into which actions will be easiest for you to start with. For example, if you know you like fruits and veggies, it might be easier to start adding in food to your diet rather than cutting things out. If you feel more confident in changing your physical activity habits rather than eating, you may choose to focus on going to the gym or playing a sport a consistent number of days per week (or month), or increasing your daily step count.
Different eating and physical activity approaches work for different people, so learn from your past, consider your present, and confidently, gradually guide yourself toward long-term results knowing what works for you.